Lurking behind Alfred Hitchcock, cinema’s “master of suspense” – the extraordinary film icon known for orchestrating some of the most intense experiences of menace and intrigue audiences have ever seen, was a hidden side: his creatively explosive romance with his steadfast wife and filmmaking collaborator, Alma Reville. Sacha Gervasi’s ‘Hitchcock’ lays bare their captivating and complex love story. It does so through the sly, shadowy lens of their most daring filmmaking adventure: the making of the 1960 thriller, ‘Psycho,’ which would become the director’s most controversial and legendary film. When the tumultuous, against-the-odds production was over, nothing about movies would ever be the same – but few realised that it took two to pull it off.

Based on the book ‘Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho’ by Stephen Rebello, ‘Hitchock’ stars Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchock, Helen Mirren as Alma Reville, Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh, James D’Arcy as Anthony Perkins, Jessica Biel as Vera Miles, Michael Stuhlbarg as Lew Wasserman, Toni Collette as Hitchcock’s secretary Peggy, Michael Wincott as Ed Gein, Kurtwood Smith as Geoffrey Shurlock, Richard Portnow as Barney Balaban, and Danny Huston as Whitfield Cook. ‘Hitchock’ is out in cinemas on November 23rd in the US and Febuary 8th, 2013 in the UK.

As one of Alfred Hitchcock’s leading ladies, Janet Leigh had a unique relationship with the director, it sort of broke his mold….

Scarlett Johansson: Oh yeah. She was different in that she was married to Tony Curtis and she had three children, so she didn’t quite fit that category of “impossible to reach blonde”. She truly was unavailable because she was a wife and a mother and was also a kind of funny, sexy, confidant broad who was able to have something more like a friendship with Hitchcock. In the film, their professional relationship is an opportunity to see Hitchcock’s more playful side, the side that was mischievous and childlike.

Also, she has an interesting dynamic with Alma Reville, given Hitchock’s habit of becoming infatuated by his leading ladies? 

Scarlett Johansson: I think Alma has had enough of her husband putting his leading ladies on a pedestal, and along with her own feelings of being ignored or undesired by him, that makes her react. But she’s not reacting to Janet so much as to the feeling that, “This is the last straw and I’m not going to take it anymore.” Alma, she believed in her husband’s vision, she also supported his vision and inspired him as a partner in every way. Their artistic collaboration became a kind of unbreakable foundation. I love that ‘Hitchcock’ becomes a story about two artists in the autumn of their lives – and how they keep that love alive. She really helped him shine.

Preparing to play Janet Leigh you spoke with her daughter Jamie Lee Curtis. How was that experience in giving you a deeper insight into her as a person, I can imagine those personal stories helped inform your performance?

Scarlett Johansson: Definitely. I was very fortunate to have an exchange with Jamie Lee, who was so lovely and so supportive, and you could tell a very proud daughter. She sent me beautiful family photographs and spoke so highly of her mother –  as everyone does in the industry. From everything I heard and read about her, she was such a grounded, humble woman and a wonderful mum, first and foremost, which I think really informed me.

More than transforming into Janet Leigh, for me it was about capturing her essence. I didn’t really try to mimic her, we’re very different, but it was the process of being able to meet her through people that knew her, through her biographies, her work. It was a pleasure, she was beloved on-screen and off, she was a wonderful actress. It was nice to be able to have a character like that to invoke that every day.

What was it like for you working with Anthony Hopkins, in a role like Alfred Hitchcock?

Scarlett Johansson: He has a truly remarkable presence – almost like a lion on the prowl who finds just the right moment to pounce (laughs). It’s incredible to feel that kind of energy coming at you. Hitch could not have been taken on by a lesser actor. I think Anthony has all the sweetness, the sadness and the intelligence that was required. It was all there on the page but to actually experience Anthony as Hitch was a once in a lifetime thing.

I’ve been so desperate to work with Anthony for such a long time, I’ve been a fan of his, as everybody else has, for as long as I can remember. Just having the opportunity to be able to experience him as Anthony, this gem of a man (laughs), then to see him transform into Hitch everyday, it was witnessing something truly great. He’s not only an icon, but he’s an inspiration I think for actors. To be able to see that transformation happening was once in a lifetime.

How was it shooting the infamous ‘Psycho’ shower scene?

Scarlett Johansson: They had seven days to shoot that scene originally, we did it in one – so it was a little bit stressful (laughs). I have to say that I was happy not to be in the shower for seven days with the crew around. But everyone made it as comfortable as possible, Sacha Gervasi and the crew were very discreet and respectful. It was just about getting the work in, capturing the work and the performance. It was fine in the end, once you get the first take done your golden (laughs).